Asalaamu alaykum, sister, and thank you for sending in your question to our website.
The female companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) indeed helped out during combat by tending to the wounded.
As for veiling, yes, they veiled themselves during their work in the battles that occurred after the command for veiling for Muslim women was revealed in the Qur’an.
Before I give some details about how the female companions of Prophet Muhammad aided the Muslim armies during battle, I would like to draw your attention to an important fact.
Women’s Battle Services Were Indirect
Even in pre-Islamic Arabia, and other historic cultures and eras, women have aided men in battle, albeit indirectly, without actually taking part in armed combat on the battlefield.
As an example:
While their numbers were relatively small, the Civil War battlefield included women in addition to men. Thousands …. aided their country’s war effort as nurses, laundresses, and cooks. Some of the more daring served as local scouts, spies attached to the military, and, in rare cases, as soldiers. [Encyclopedia.com]
In a hadith reported by Rubai Bint Muawadh, she narrated:
We used to go for military expeditions along with Allah’s messenger and provide the people with water, serve them, and bring the dead and the wounded back to Madinah. (Al-Bukhari)
Another example of a female companion who helped out during battles is that of Rufaidah bint Sa’ad, al-Islamiyya (or Al-Ansariya).
She was the first Muslim nurse and she used to treat the wounded in her tent, which had been set up in the mosque for that purpose.
She was very skilled in treating the sick, and her work was done with the knowledge and express permission of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
A Rare Warrior: Nusaybah bint Ka’b
Women did not usually help the Muslim men out in actual fighting on the battlefield, but Umm Ammarah Nusaybah bint Ka’b was an exception, due to her advanced warrior skills.
Her shoulder bled due to a wound during the battle of Uhud, in which she valiantly defended the Prophet with her sword.
He asked her son Abdullah to bandage her, and gave them a very special dua: that they be among Prophet Muhammad’s friends in Paradise!
Note that the Prophet urged Umm Ammarah’s son Abdullah to stop fighting and bandage the huge gash on his mother’s shoulder, rather than someone else.
This clearly indicates that any physical contact while nursing the wounded was also undertaken according to the bounds of Islamic law.
In other words, whenever possible, it was done between people who were mahrams to each other, or with men being tended to by men, and women by women.
Conclusion: A Look at Historic Battle Armour
I would like to conclude by pointing out one very important point to the questioner, as well as to other readers.
Throughout the history of mankind, battles have mostly been fought with heavy, hand-held weapons such as swords, bow-arrows, and shields, and with horses and elephants used for transport.
The armoured clothing of warriors on the battlefield was heavy and specially designed to cover and protect them, as much as possible, from getting injured if struck.
This included their heads and faces.
The services rendered by the female companions of the Prophet during battles were indirect in nature.
But they still remained covered according to the command of the Qur’an, in front of non-mahram men.
It is not hard for a woman to remain covered even when nursing the wounded, or fighting on the field.
If male warriors can fight whilst wearing face-covering helmets, body armour, and shields, in addition to weapons, so can women remain covered during battle.
The same can be said for the attire of modern-day surgeons when they are on call at the hospital: they cover their heads, faces, bodies and even hands whilst performing intricate surgeries.
And Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your question.
Salam. Please stay in touch.